While lawmakers on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. debate sending billions more in military aid to Ukraine, an American citizen journalist, Gonzalo Lira, is languishing in a Ukrainian prison on allegations of spreading Russian propaganda, throwing into question the status of free speech in the supposed democracy the Biden administration argues is worthy of more taxpayer dollars.
The Biden administration is asking Congress to approve another $24 billion for Ukraine for now through the end of this year, which would add to the $113 billion that Congress has committed to the country since its war with Russia began in February of last year.
President Biden on Tuesday at the United Nations argued that investment in Ukraine was an investment in “the future of every country that seeks a world governed by basic rules.”
However, the administration has been much less vocal about Ukraine potentially violating the rights of an American journalist who is currently detained in Ukraine for his reporting; and in a speech at the U.N. almost entirely devoted to Ukraine, the status of Gonzalo Lira was not mentioned once by Biden.
Lira, a dual citizen of the United States and Chile who was living in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv at the time of the Russian invasion, is reportedly facing between five to eight years in prison under Ukraine’s wartime propaganda laws.
The American citizen journalist was initially arrested in May of this year on suspicion of producing pro-Russian propaganda on his YouTube channel, where he questioned the narratives around the war presented in the legacy media and from the Zelensky government, including suggesting that Moscow was provoked into invading by the Ukrainian government and the expansion east of the American-led NATO military alliance.
In July of this year, Lira posted messages on Twitter and YouTube claiming that he was going to try to cross the Ukrainian border into Hungary to claim asylum after being released from prison on bail. He has not posted on either platform since.
In his final video message, Lira claimed that if he did not post after his attempt to cross the border, it would mean that he had been arrested again by the Ukrainian authorities. Lira said that in such an event, he would “die in prison” and begged the public to “raise a ruckus” about his arrest. The former red pill-style dating coach turned citizen journalist has maintained that he merely discussed publicly available information about the war.
“The American State Department knows exactly who I am and the fate that awaits me,” he said before attempting to cross the border.
According to a copy of the apparent charges, the Ukrainian government alleged that Lira “had a criminal intent aimed at the manufacture, distribution materials containing justification, recognition as legitimate, denial of the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, which began in 2014, as well as justification, recognition as legitimate of the temporary occupation of part of Ukraine territory.”
The charge sheet posted by Lira contains zero mention of him ever working for the Russian government in any capacity, nor does it lay out any other criminal acts other than statements he made on social media.
“The charges against me are just because of my opinion about this conflict, I did no harm to anyone,” Lira said.
The citizen journalist has also said that he has suffered violent abuse from other prisoners during his initial time in jail, making claims, which cannot be verified, that the prison guards “outsource” torture to other inmates. Lira said that he believes the Chilean embassy did more to protect his welfare than the U.S. State Department. He added that he believes the American government does not have an interest in his case because: “I’m not a black lesbian druggie, or a transgender grifter. Besides, Victoria Nuland hates my guts, or so I’m told.”
A State Department spokesperson told Breitbart News in a statement Tuesday: “We are aware of the detention of Mr. Lira in Ukraine. We take our role in assisting U.S. citizens abroad seriously and are providing all appropriate assistance.
“We are monitoring the situation but have no further comment at this time. We reiterate our message that U.S. citizens should not travel to Ukraine due to the active armed conflict.”
Ukraine’s Trans ‘Spokesperson’ Lashes Out at Sen. J.D. Vance for Spreading ‘Gender Chaos’, Refuses to Deny U.S. Gov’t Tieshttps://t.co/eLUui3iwkl
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) September 18, 2023
Lira’s case has come into focus after apparent Ukrainian military spokesperson Sarah Ashton-Cirillo claimed last week to have given testimony against Lira while claiming to have met with him personally. Ashton-Cirillo asserted that he was in good physical and mental health during their meeting.
The transgender spokesperson has come under criticism from U.S. Senator J.D. Vance after declaring on social media that Russian propagandists would be “hunted down” by the Ukrainian government.
Sen. Vance, Breitbart News reported, has written to the Biden administration, questioning if the White House is aware of any plans from the Zelensky government to wage violent attacks on people exercising their right to free speech. Ashton-Cirillo, meanwhile, has asserted that Ukraine respects freedom of speech but caveated by declaring that those who spread supposed Russian propaganda cannot claim to be journalists and therefore will face imprisonment.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration brought home five Americans detained in Iran in exchange for releasing $6 billion to the Islamic nation, along with five Iranians facing charges in the United States.
The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Europe’s largest journalist association, has expressed concern about a new Ukrainian law that could arbitrarily censor media in the country. https://t.co/ZBVFEa1dJP
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) January 9, 2023